Thursday, February 11, 2010

Another Voice for Animal Consciousness

I know that I am not alone in my thoughts. There many like me, but not necessarily willing to put up a blog about animals. All the same, it does me good to see their thoughts and the thinking:

After reading some articles ( on animal consciousness, I was surprised to find that so many scientists, psychologists and philosphers regard almost every animal but homo sapein as completely unconscious. They were making arguments such as animals feel pain, but they don't know they feel pain, basically they reposnd as if they feel pain, but they are not really experiencing it. Some of them, referred to as Cartesians, were theorizing that consciousness did not evolve until the development of art and other forms of culture in the Upper Paleolithic. Is it just me or is this just as non-sensical as multi-culturalism? Why would otherwise intelligent, educated people espouse such ridiculous ideas?

This all began with Descartes who proposed that man's soul was a 'ghost in a machine'. To Descartes it was the ghost that made man aware of being aware, etc. I had a philosophy professor who told me one time that Descartes was a *VERY* subtle philosopher and to exercise great care in how you go about interpreting him.

His driving passion, so to speak, was his fear of the Catholic Church and the Office of the Holy Inquisition. The royal treatment they handed out to Galileo was in Descartes' lifetime. Descartes' writing about the 'ghost in the machine' was one of those subtleties. Cartesian dualism might rest entirely on a mistaken interpretation of Descartes' writing. Suppose he wanted to criticize some aspect of Church teaching, such as the doctrine of the seperate existence of the soul. He could develop an argument that would lead to an obviously false conclusion that he assumed everyone as intelligent as he would get. Except nobody got it. He proposed that there was within man a ghost (the ghost in the machine) that was not present within animals. He then deduced that animals were not conscious. In line with this hypothesis he would have assumed that since it was obvious that animals are conscious and do feel pain that the theory of the ghost in the machine would stand as refuted and so would the church teaching about the soul (without him being guilty before the Inquisition). In other words, it was his intent to set up his own theory to fail in order to refute a church teaching. However, it backfired. He was taken for serious and so was his 'ghost in the machine'. Anyway, if I am right on this, so-called Cartesians are as thick as his contemporaries and just do not get it.

It should be obvious to any rational person that animals are conscious and do feel pain. If I can doubt that animals feel pain I can just as well doubt that fellow humans feel pain. What is the difference? They both emit noises when injured but since I am the only one I know for sure is conscious how can I be sure other humans feel pain? This shows that the whole argument amount animals not being conscious reduces to solipsism.

I should also add as a P.S. that many scientists would adopt animal non-consciousness as a methodological premise. In other words they would study animals, and sometimes humans, as stimulus-response machines. This would be, however, to reduce the number of variables in their behavioral model and not because they are really thorough going Cartesians.

At the end of the day they would still go home and play with their dog and yell at their cat.

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